How does Hamlet’s relationship with his father’s ghost change so fast? Before he calls his dad an “old mole” he’s been silent and awed, trembling perhaps before the heightened rhetoric of his ghostly father – then once the ghost’s voice comes eerily up through the ground, he becomes irreverent and affectionate somehow. A mole conjures no really fearful quality (even for a Small Mammal-phobe like me). A mole is blind and cute and I picture one cradled in the palm of a hand, even a very old one, with grey whiskers, perhaps a long beard, still, harmless. Perhaps even more than harmless.
And isn’t it sort of condescending to say something is well said when you’ve just said that very thing yourself?
It’s like when a child learns to talk and we praise him for the very thing he’s repeating, when really we just said it ourselves.
Dramatically, this scene makes sense in performance. It’s satisfying to see Hamlet treat the scary ghost like a cute old spirit, like Casper, not a poltergeist –
but I can’t figure out how to explain this shift.